Fighting social media stereotypes about ageing

By Barrie Hudson - 11 February 2021

AttractionsCommunityEducation

Swindon and Wiltshire people are being asked to post photos challenging negative stereotypes of ageing and biased social media algorithms.

The initiative is part of the town’s online Festival of Tomorrow, and marks the launch of an on-going research project between the Centre for Digital Citizens, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the festival itself.  

The project aims to gather data to help explore the concept of an 'Ageless Citizen' and the relationship between technology and bias and stereotypes around age.

Search engines and stock photo libraries often use unrealistically positive or negative depictions of people in later life. The reality is that digital technologies often replicate and magnify prejudices and biases that already exist within society as a whole - a problem known as algorithmic bias.

The project is the idea of a group of researchers from the Centre for Digital Citizens, based at Newcastle University and Northumbria University.  

Dan Lambton-Howard, researcher at Open Lab, Newcastle University, said: “We want to challenge algorithmic biases to create a more diverse and authentic representation of ageing and later life. We can fight back against the algorithms! 

"We want people from Swindon and Wiltshire to help us fight back against search-engine bias and stereotypes of ageing by creating and sharing more realistic images of growing up and growing older on social media!” 

Rod Hebden, Director of the Festival of Tomorrow said “No-one likes being misrepresented, so we want as many people as possible to take part in the project, by sharing a photo of growing up or growing older that fits one of the following titles - 'This is my everyday...', 'Don’t underestimate me...' and ' A shared passion...' 

"Send us your photos by posting them on social media with #FestivalOfTomorrow. To help your image be understood by search engines, we also want you to tag your image with three words that best describe it.”

Visitors to the free online Festival of Tomorrow on 19 and 20 February will be able find out more about the project, as well as enjoying a varied programme of talks and shows, a virtual planetarium and a range of exhibitions showcasing the latest science and research – from the future of space travel to the UK’s leading role in the fight against coronavirus. 

Registration can be arranged via www.scienceswindon.com/festival-of-tomorrow

The Festival of Tomorrow is a collaboration between Steam, the museum of the Great Western Railway, and Swindon-based consultancy New Elements, and is made possible by the support of principal partner, UK Research and Innovation, and major partners Business West and Bravedog.

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